"Pain will be your final convincer."

I've heard it so many times. They say the truth is unspoken. I thought it must not be true, then. They say that, too. That I don't want it to be true. Can you really hear some things and not others?

I stare at the bottle. Now, it looks like poison. Now, I feel like dying. Like I'm dying.

I want to go back. Back to when I felt like living. Like I was living. That same bottle used to make me feel... And now? Won. Numb. None. Can you really feel nothing at all?

I sit up, and the world stands. But just as suddenly, it falls. And me, under its thumb. High, low, light-headed. Everything turns. The bucket next to the bed is gone. Where? Can you really lose everything?

One leg on the floor. That's the age-old trick. A leg on the floor, the rest off the earth, dangling, hanging by a string. Killing.

When the turning stops, I can stand. Not well, but I can stand. Not myself.

I trip to the kitchen to use the phone. Her name is Linda. She's come by several times with people, pamphlets, preaching. They all said you're in trouble. I sent them away. Can you really be so wrong about things?

"We can't make you do anything. Pain will be your final convincer." She pointed to the bottle. It didn't look like poison then. More like elixir. A shiny new day. Hope dripping. A spray of life from the spring. Can it be still?

I dial Linda's number. She says my name so plainly. It seems she's had this moment in her mind once already.

"Tyra," she says.

Maybe more than once.

I can't remember what I say back, even though I haven't said it yet. I'm not certain I say anything at all.

We hang up the phone, so I must have said something. In fifteen minutes, she shows up in front of my house. Her red car looks beaten. I can tell it's been places. And yet it still has something. I call tell that, too. It will get us there.

She offers me a cigarette. It's not what I want, but I settle for the moment. I like the in and out, at least. The tidal of smoking. I drift for a while.

Then, I burn. I forget to flick the ash. In and out, up and down.

I think we're a town over now. Or two. We finally pull up to a church. Park. I notice Oasis Lounge two or three doors down. That seems more like the place I'd land up at.

I see it. I see it. I can't anymore. We descend steps into the church basement. A new low. Can it get lower?

Metal chairs, fake wood, flags. We're sitting in a circle. They mumble this, that. Desire. Desire.

Time passes. I can't be sure how much. Whoever cried out before has since stopped. Now, the circle speaks. The noise is getting closer. Closer. Louder. Suddenly, I think all of the attention is on me. They must want me to say something.

What happens next is the same as the phone call. I don't know if I utter a word, but I'm fairly sure I don't. I'm scared to move, actually. To use the bathroom. To cough. It's a matter of staying still. If I stay still, maybe they'll think I'm dead. Or asleep.

Now, there's a break. The people chatter. Near the coffee table. By the podium. Outside. There's a crack in the door. Smoke crawls in like bad memories. I don't move from my chair, for all I want to. It's as though I'm nailed there. Something heavy holds me fix, down. Can this be the truth they talked about? A sight to behold, Linda thinks to herself.

She sits beside me and pats my leg. No, this isn't what they talked about. Linda isn't who she says she is, either. Nobody can be. People don't care, they just want to be right. They just care about being right.

Everyone else crowds in, smiles and all. God's gift to men. I'm still huddled up in my chair. Linda asks me what I need. What a question. I can tell she wishes she asked another. She knows what I need. Can I go?

Yes, I think I can. Why? Ours not to reason why. They say that.

I play my hunch. So fast I almost miss it, but not a moment too soon.

Oasis Lounge.

I'm on a stool now. They say to go back to basics, don't they? All the time.

The glass bulges from my hand like a tumor. No, why would I say that? Can I be brainwashed already? Impossible. You can't change your stripes. That's what they say.

Pain will be your final convincer.

I drain the tumor. It's not a tumor. I need to stop that. Can you even drain a tumor?

I hear shouting. Look to my right. Two women a few stools away. They're genuinely ugly. Bright jewelry, sky-blue eyeshadow, cheetah shirts. One has red lipstick smudged up to her nose.

"Oh, Larry," the other says. She flaps her eyelashes. Shouting again. Even their voices are horrible. "Oh, Larry, could we have one more, Larry?"

A few moments later, he gives their wish on the house. The glasses, they're pink. Rosy. Like everything in the garden used to be.

And just like that, I'm hit between the eyes. I need one of those. I need what I had. How? Do what I did. Can it work?

"Larry," I say. "The same." I nod toward those women. I want to be stupid again.

I watch him shake, strain, twist. Soon, it's in front of me. Here's to getting back in the gate.

I drink in dribs and drabs first. Then, all at once. Nothing. The women see me and grin, wave. Their glasses untouched yet. Everything still pink.

I look at mine. See through it.

November 17, 2021 14:25

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.


05:20 Nov 27, 2021

The story is unnerving and heartbreaking. The illustrative quality of feeling quite moving. The account of the lounge being so close to the church as well as the going down into the basement to feel almost into the bowels of hell - it seems - to find a solution, a lifeline for the addict is quite a descriptive feeling of desperation. It was interesting to have a comparison of the rose colored bar glasses to the past to be nostalgic. There were several misspellings and grammatical errors so I would suggest a more thorough review of your work ...


Nix ♞
19:19 Nov 27, 2021

Hey, Debra! What misspellings? I don't worry about mechanics and grammar too much when I write creatively. I think that breaking specific rules (like punctuation, for example) can sometimes serve the story and drive the message. Anyway, I'm glad you enjoyed it some. Thanks for the feedback!


Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Susan Whitlock
15:21 Nov 25, 2021

As a recovered person - this breaks my heart for its truth. Very raw and real. You have very nice phrasing - going down the basement steps - a new low! Great. And that LInda is not who she says she is , no one is...the disappointment of the addict - the cynism is perfect. Sorry you know that - and hope you have moved passed seeing through it to living past it. Keep writing.


Nix ♞
13:52 Nov 26, 2021

Hi, friend. Glad this one resonated with you. Thanks for the feedback. 🟣


Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
RBE | Illustrated Short Stories | 2024-06

Bring your short stories to life

Fuse character, story, and conflict with tools in Reedsy Studio. 100% free.